by Sebastian Rohe and Camilla Chlebna
In transition studies, formal inter-organizational networks – ‘networking organizations’ – are considered essential for inducing socio-technical change. Yet, there is little research on how their structural composition and role evolve in advanced transitions and which tensions arise over time. We address these gaps by combining insights from network research in social and economic science with transition studies, where networking organizations are conceptualized as intermediaries and key elements of Technological Innovation Systems. We synthesize a framework capturing the evolution of and resulting tensions within networking organizations in sustainability transitions. It is applied to two regional energy networking organizations from Germany. We draw on qualitative expert interviews and a complementary social network analysis. We show that networking organizations do not necessarily stabilize once the initial technologies they were centered around become established. Instead, their member base broadens to different sectors. This can lead to tensions over the networking organizations’ scope. Tensions also arise from misalignments between ‘private’ goals of member firms and the ‘public’ goal of transforming system-level structures. Furthermore, complementary or competing networking organizations might emerge during the transition. Managers need to navigate these tensions and regularly review the networking organization’s mission to maintain its relevance in the transition process.
Download paper: The evolving role of networking organizations in advanced sustainability transitions
Cite as: Rohe S. and Chlebna C. (2021) The evolving role of networking organizations in advanced sustainability transitions. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(04), GEIST Working Paper series.
by Jonas Heiberg and Bernhard Truffer
The technological innovation systems (TIS) framework is one of the dominant perspectives in transitions studies to analyze success conditions of newly emerging technologies and industries. Key conditions for innovation success reside in overcoming so-called system failures. So far, TIS studies mostly adopted a rather harmonious view on the values, goals and interests that motivate the different actors and by this were unable to address competition, conflicts and, in particular, battles over diverging directionalities within the system. To tackle this “harmony fallacy”, we propose an institutional logics based measure for “value-based proximities” among actors, which serve to identify the “degree of harmony” in the field. To operationalize these concepts, we apply socio-technical configuration analysis (STCA) based on transcripts from 26 interviews, covering the case of modular water technologies in Switzerland. Results indicate that value orientations crucially affect system failures, diverging technological preferences and collaboration patterns. Conflictual field logics may prevent the stabilization of system structures in a specific country and drive actors to engage in sub- or transnational networks. This analysis enables to inspire key conceptual tasks of innovation system analysis, like the identification of system failures, the setting of appropriate system boundaries and the formulation of better policy implications.
Download paper: Overcoming the harmony fallacy: How values shape the course of innovation systems
Cite as: Heiberg J. and Truffer B. (2021) Overcoming the harmony fallacy: How values shape the course of innovation systems. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(03), GEIST Working Paper series.
by Xiao-Shan Yap and Bernhard Truffer
Sustainability transitions research has increasingly adopted global perspectives on how to deal with sustainability challenges. However, “global” has so far been limited to Earth’s surface and atmosphere. We argue that transitions research should include developments that relate to the orbit and outer space (hereinafter also Space). The Space sector has grown substantially over the last decade in terms of the number of rocket launches, the diversity of actors involved or new essential services that depend on Space-based infrastructures. This entails fundamentally new opportunities to manifold industrial sectors, and enables developing countries to potentially leapfrog polluting industrial development pathways. At the same time, the expansion of the Space sector creates manifold sustainability pressures like atmospheric pollution, high energy consumption, or Space debris in the orbit. This led to recent surges in arguably “green” innovations such as reusable rockets, but also the development of new governance arrangements protecting outer space as a finite resource for humankind. This research note sketches major recent developments in the Space sector and points to promising avenues of research for innovation and transition studies, not only in terms of a new empirical application field but also as an inspiration for new theoretical insights and innovation policies.
Download paper: Opportunities and threats of the rapidly developing Space sector on sustainability transitions: Towards a research agenda
Cite as: Yap X.-S. and Truffer B. (2021) Opportunities and threats of the rapidly developing Space sector on sustainability transitions: Towards a research agenda. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(02), GEIST Working Paper series.
by Franz Tödtling, Michaela Trippl and Veronika Desch
The regional innovation system (RIS) approach has become a widely used framework for examining the dynamics of innovation across space as well as for crafting policies aimed at promoting the innovation capacity of regions. The dominant focus of RIS studies and regional innovation policies has been on technological innovation that drives competitiveness and economic growth. In light of persistent environmental and social challenges such as climate change, health problems, and growing inequalities, this narrow understanding of innovation appears to be obsolete. This article claims that the RIS approach requires critical rethinking and reassessment to provide a solid basis for informing the next generation of regional innovation policies. We explore how RIS scholarship and policies could benefit from engaging more deeply with an alternative understanding of innovation. Inspired by recent work on responsible innovation, mission-oriented and transformative innovation policies, we develop the notion of ‘challenge-oriented RIS’ (CORIS). In contrast to conventional understandings of RIS, this approach embraces a broader and more critical understanding of innovation, captures the directionality of change, opens up to new innovation actors and novel coordination mechanisms between various stakeholders and territorial scales, and pays more attention to the application side and upscaling of innovation within the region and beyond. Acknowledging that regions vary in their capacity to fashion transformative change and challenge-oriented innovation, the paper outlines new directions for place-based innovation policies.
Download paper: New directions for RIS studies and policies in the face of grand societal challenges
Cite as: Tödtling F., Trippl M. and Desch V. (2021) New directions for RIS studies and policies in the face of grand societal challenges. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(01), GEIST Working Paper series.